Martin Kaymer went out and fired another 5-under par 65 on Friday at Pinehurst, setting a new tournament scoring record after 36 holes at 130 strokes, and allowing him to widen an already large gap at the 2014 U.S. Open.
Back-to-back 65s is really not that surprising if you're watching something like the John Deere, but players are used to shooting two consecutive 75s to start the U.S. Open and not being out of it. Instead, players who are under par are looking way up at Kaymer, who bested Rory McIlroy's 36-hole tournament scoring record by one, and if you remember that 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional and what McIlroy did that week, you should get some kind of idea of the way Kaymer has played over the first two days. Everything has been on point from tee to green, and once he's been on the putting surface, the putts are either dropping or he's not putting himself in positions where he's going to put up a big number, which is always what kills players at this event.
Towards the end of the round, he looked like he was struggling with some kind of wrist or hand injury, as three of his final four irons into the greens all ended up either short or missing greens left and right. Kaymer downplayed this after the round, saying that it was more about him being tired than anything, but that could be something to keep an eye on as he tries to defend his huge lead.
It's not often we see this wide of a gap in regular events, let alone at the U.S. Open, and at first glance, it would seem unlikely that someone could catch Kaymer with the way he's playing. Kaymer's been a good frontrunner, closing four of seven 36-hole leads in his career, but it's really not going to take much for that gap to close.
If you talk to the players, they'll tell you that one of the toughest things for a player to do is follow a great round with another great one, and while Kaymer did that on Friday, it's not a guarantee that he goes out Saturday and puts up another under-par round. All it'll take is a 74 or 75 to bring a lot of players back into contention.
The one thing Kaymer probably has going for him is the possibility that the USGA decides to toughen up the course a little bit overnight, and if that happens, it's going to make it harder for anyone trying to catch him.
Coming into the season, Phil Mickelson made a point of talking about how his main focus for 2014 was to win this tournament and complete the career grand slam. Unfortunately for him, his season has been disastrous by his standards, and it looks like he doesn't have it this week, at least through two rounds. He seems to be driving the ball well for the most part, but the approach shots haven't been great, and the putting has been even worse. He was able to get inside the cut at 3-over par, but at 13 shots back, something monumental from both him and Kaymer will be required for Lefty to get back into contention.